NPR logo NPR Exclusive: On The Street, Then And Now

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NPR Exclusive: On The Street, Then And Now

"... Amy tried not to become a photographer. In fact, she was determined to be a musician."

So begins A.M. Homes' introduction to On The Street, a recently published body of Amy Arbus' street photography. Arbus is known for her 1980s photo series in a Village Voice newspaper style column called "On The Street." She was a documentarian of the most courageous downtown Manhattan trendsetters and scenesters.

Nearly 25 years later, Arbus has taken photos of many of her original subjects. In an NPR exclusive, the "now and then" photos can be seen together for the first time on our Picture Show blog.

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The 1980s images run the gamut; there's The Clash and Madonna as well as random passersby, who simply caught Arbus' eye. In the new photo series, the subjects are still on the street. Their attitudes are equally bold, but their wardrobe choices are decidedly different (gone is the fur bikini) — with the exception of one subject who is still sporting a key-covered dress.

The daughter of two photographers, Amy wanted to do something different. She had inherited an eye for photography, and an eye for the unconventional from her mother, Diane Arbus. But she took a different focus, exploring how people used fashion as an expression of creativity. These fashion statements, and perhaps even the style of photography, may not be for everyone. But Arbus has made an undeniable impression on the world of street portraiture, and has left a lasting image of a distinct 1980s culture. An upcoming biographical documentary by John Spellos will give a more detailed look at how New York and the iconic subjects of On The Street have changed.

Photos (c) copyright Amy Arbus from "On The Street" (Welcome Books)